Call girls never seem to learn. In the movies they are always falling for their johns, and that frequently doesn’t work out so well. It definitely goes bad quickly in The Sleeping Room. In the lovely coastal town of Brighton, in the United Kingdom, young lady of the night Blue (Leila Mimmack) makes the mistake of falling for Bill (Joseph Beattie), a newcomer to town who is rehabbing an old building that houses some very nasty secrets.
When Blue is sent to the building Bill is working on, he doesn’t appear to be interested in having sex with her. He claims to have never done this sort of thing before, and soon Blue’s attention shifts to a Victorian-era machine called a mutoscope. A mutoscope has a hand crank and shows moving images when you crank it up. When Blue tries it out she sees a hooded man (think Friday the 13th Part 2) and is quite startled.
Deciding not to leave well enough alone, the duo discovers a hidden room via two-way mirror. It’s called a sleeping room and all brothels had them. The room has old furnishings and pictures, and Blue soon turns investigative reporter, longing to learn more about what went down in the old building. It was nothing good. The hooded man, Fiskin (Christopher Adamson), filmed devious acts with family members and did terrible things to them if they resisted. A wannabe snuff filmmaker, he disappeared, and no bodies were ever found in the building.
The Sleeping Room is an odd, extremely brief (70 minutes), and disjointed tale. It awkwardly and ultimately unsuccessfully attempts to mix romance (Bill is immediately smitten with Blue), melodrama (her pimp is cruel and violent), and mystery (the truth about what happened in that building and the legend of Fiskin). With such a brief running time, the parts never fully develop into a coherent whole. The pimp subplot feels like padding, and the romance and mystery are rushed. The latter is especially problematic. Blue is instantly obsessed with learning more about the building and Fiskin, but it’s never clear why she is so hellbent on finding the truth. The audience isn’t nearly as invested in this as she is.
While the leads are appealing and Fiskin is very creepy looking, the mystery fails to deliver suspense or scares. The snuff films are meant to terrify, but they are more silly than scary as glimpsed through an old machine. And the conclusion, a dragged out chase and showdown in the old building, is perfunctory and fairly dull, making a short movie feel much longer than it actually is. The Sleeping Room might result in some unintentional dozing.